Jesse Jones

Jesse Jones: CenturyLink customers in rural Washington without landlines for months

In rural Enumclaw, unhappy CenturyLink customers are sounding an alarm.

In an area with no cellular reception, 80-year-old Leslie Walker’s landline has been down for two weeks.

“I was without cell phone, Internet, and a landline, all from end of October to December. Three weeks ago, on the 6th of February, the phone line went out again,” Leslie said.

Leslie’s neighbor Ole Una has been without service for two and half months.

“We don’t have a landline and, it’s been out since the 15th of December.  It was also out for three months this summer,” Ole said.

Ole says he’s most worried about what he’d do in case of an emergency.

“My major concern is a lack of 911 service,” Ole said.

In rural areas where there is no cell service a landline is a lifeline – especially for the vulnerable and elderly.

Stephen Norman lives just up the street.

“You know, my wife fell once. I’d like to call on 911 but I had to try to drag her into the car myself and drive her to the hospital. You know, you shouldn’t have to do that,” Stephen said.

He says his landline was out for most of last year and at a time when he needed it the most. 

“Last November, my youngest daughter passed away. And, we had no way to know how bad she was doing or that she needed to be rushed to the hospital or whatever, you know, because we couldn’t get ahold of her. We’d have to go and drive somewhere, drive into Black Diamond just to get a cell signal because there aren’t any around here,” Stephen said. “And then so when your phone doesn’t work for, you know, ten out of 12 months, that puts you in a pretty bad place.”

We contacted the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission - it regulates telecommunication carriers like CenturyLink.

The WUTC says it is looking into the issue adding…

“…Phone companies must promptly repair or replace broken, damaged, or deteriorated equipment… 48 hours is an appropriate benchmark for determining whether a company has promptly repaired or restored service.”

After months of trying to have the problem fixed Stephen decided to hang up on CenturyLink all together and cancel his service.

“I told them we’ve been out of a phone for 254 days out of the last 365. But you guys sure don’t mind cashing our check every month,” Stephen said.

And just today, Lumen, CenturyLink’s parent company, told us that Leslie and Ole’s issues were caused by a lightning strike followed by theft of the copper cable during repairs.

In a statement a company spokesperson says…

“Due to vandalism, it will take approximately three weeks to fully restore service. We hope to do this as fast as possible.”

Leslie Walker says she hopes her service is back up soon.

“I think that lack of 911 in rural areas. It’s a landline. It’s the only thing that’ll work 90% of the time. If somebody doesn’t cut the wires, you. That’s how you communicate. Especially in mountains,” Leslie said.